For the fourth year running, I have compiled a list of the trail running and lightweight hiking shoes I’m looking forward to most. My lists from 2015, 2016, and 2017 have gone on to become some of Trail to Peak’s most viewed posts to date. I fully expect this post for 2018 to be equally popular. Worldwide participation in outdoor recreation continues to grow each year, and people are increasingly looking online to read about and purchase the gear that fits their activity profile. Many hikers are also discovering what many of us have known for years…boots (especially those labeled “waterproof”) are oversold and unnecessary for many outdoor pursuits. Trail running shoes and light hikers offer all of the protection you need with all of the comfort found in a traditional running shoe.
Last year I mentioned how amazing its been to watch the trends and patterns emerge that have shaped the outdoor footwear industry. Around a decade ago, minimal shoes with very little cushion were all the rage. It was all about proprioception and ground feel. Then Hoka shook the industry with their max cushion moon shoes and pushed many companies into playing copycat. I know there are a lot of people out their that love the max cushion craze, but I’m happy to see the pendulum moving back towards the center. That’s a theme you’ll see in these shoes for 2018.
There are also some thematic carryovers from last year. Gone are the drab earth-tones of nubuck and leather. Expect bold and flashy designs with minimal stitching and welded overlays. Uppers are also getting much more comfortable with some manufacturers using one piece knits. Expect to see a lot of shoe reviews and previews coming your way early this year. I can’t wait to try all of these new models out. Here are the 25 most exciting trail running and lightweight hiking shoes of 2018!
1.) La Sportiva Unika
$190 – 11.60 oz – 8mm drop – Feb 2018
The Unika is a new mountain running shoe by La Sportiva with a very unique design and feature set. The midsole is a PU ‘Infinitoo’ compound for high energy return and durability. The upper is the real story though. I’m very interested to see how this shoe feels when laced up. The outsole uses a FriXion XF 2.0 compound with a low profile lug pattern.
2.) La Sportiva Lycan
$115 – 9.5 oz – 6mm drop – Feb 2018
The Lycan is a new shoe by La Sportiva designed to eat up hard and rocky trails. The midsole is an injected molded EVA that felt pretty forgiving with a thumb press test. The upper has a wider fit in the forefoot than most La Sportiva shoes. This will also come in a GTX version with the outsole from the Mutant. This non_GTX version outsole uses a FriXion AT 2.0 compound with a low profile lug pattern.
3.) La Sportiva VK (Vertical Kilometer)
$135 – 6.9 oz – 4mm drop – Feb 2018
The VK is the third mountain running shoe by La Sportiva on this list. The VK was specifically designed for Vertical Kilometer races and was designed with vertical kilometer world record holder Urban Zemmer. This shoe is lightweight, low profile, and built to fly. The outsole uses the same FriXion XF 2.0 as the Unika, and the midsole has a 1.5mm compressed EVA stone guard.
4.) Salomon Outline
Price TBD – 10.6 oz – Drop TBD – Aug 2018
The Outline is a brand new shoe by Salomon and is built for light and fast hiking. The Outline ditches the quicklace and endofit of the Salomon trail running line, but does have a gusseted tongue. The 5mm lugs share a similar lug pattern to the trail running line, and the outsole is Premium Wet Traction Contragrip.
5.) Salomon Sense Pro 3
$130 – 8.9oz – 6mm drop – August 2018
As a big fan of the Salomon Sense Pro 2, I was hoping Salomon would release a v3. It looks like they will in 2018. The upper looks much more like the SLAB Sense this time around and the outsole lugs look to have added more depth and spacing. The Sense Pro 3 has a Premium Wet Traction Contragrip outsole and Pro-Feel film in the midsole.
6.) Salomon Sense Ultra Pro
$150 – 10.3oz – 8mm drop – Aug 2018
The Salomon Sense Ultra Pro might be the shoe on this list I’m looking forward to most. Built almost identically to the Salomon SLAB Sense Ultra 2 (see below), this shoe looks to have everything I like in a light hiker. It has a comfortable and super secure upper, loads of underfoot protection, and a bomber outsole. The outsole uses a Premium Wet Traction Contragrip compound and the midsole contains a PU ‘Energy Save’ stone guard.
7.) Salomon SLAB Sense Ultra 2
$180 – 10.6oz – 8mm drop – Mar 2018
The Salomon SLAB Sense Ultra 2 is the inspiration of the Salomon Sense Ultra Pro. The SLAB moniker means you’re going to get premium materials here, with a lighter upper than the Sense Ultra Pro and a little more of a PU stone guard in the forefoot. For an extra $30, this expensive shoe will be very tempting. The outsole uses a Premium Wet Traction Contragrip compound, and the midsole uses Pro-Feel film and a PU ‘Energy Save’ stone guard. This is the shoe that carried Francois D’haene to a win on UTMB this year and a FKT on the JMT.
8.) Salomon SLAB Sense 7
$180 – 7oz – 4mm drop – Aug 2018
The Salomon SLAB Sense series has never been for me. The last and overall fit is just a tad narrow for my foot. They do work for a ton of runners though, and for this reason they make the list. Kilian Journet helped design and create the original version of this shoe, and it’s been setting records on the feet of Salomon athletes for years. I’d expect much of the same from v7. Here you’ll get the Premium Wet Traction Contragrip compound and a Pro-Feel film stone guard in the midsole.
9.) Lowa Lynnox Lo
$160 – Weight TBD – Drop TBD – Mar 2018
I stopped by the Lowa booth at Outdoor Retailer this year and was introduced to the brand’s impressive “All Terrain Sport” lineup. New for 2018 is the Lynnox Lo. This shoe is built on a dual density PU midsole that looks like it will handle any and all trails. This is going to be a great shoe for peak bagging and fast packing. I’ve never worn a Lowa shoe before, but I’m hoping to get my feet into a pair of the Lynnox Lo for 2018.
10.) Scarpa Spin RS8
Price TBD – 9.4oz – 8mm drop – Spring 2018
Building on the design of last year’s 4mm drop Scarpa Spin, the Spin RS8 goes to 8mm drop and adds a little weight. The big improvement over the Spin is that the Spin RS8 has a full coverage outsole without the large cutouts. The Vibram Megagrip compound remains.
11.) Scarpa Neutron 2
Price TBD – 11.8oz – 8mm drop – Spring 2018
The Neutron is the beefier trail option in the Scarpa lineup with an 8mm drop, a more accommodating fit, and a lot of underfoot protection. This will be another great shoe for peak bagging and fast packing. This shoe has a The Vibram Megagrip outsole with a stone guard in the forefoot of the midsole.
12.) Altra Lone Peak 4
$120 – 10.2oz – 0mm drop – Fall 2018
The Altra Lone Peak is possibly the most beloved trail shoe in the hiking community right now. Not too long ago that title was held by the Brooks Cascadia. In recent years, I’ve seen many JMT and PCT hikers switching to Lone Peaks for their wide toe box, zero drop platform, and great value at $120. The Lone Peak 4 has some really nice changes for 2018. The upper gets a new ripstop nylon to allow less debris into the shoe. The midsole gets a new flexible five-toe rock plate. Finally, the outsole has a new durometer for a balance of traction and durability, while the lug pattern gets a slight revision.
13.) Altra King MT 1.5
$140 – 8.5oz – 0mm drop – Available Now
The Altra King MT gets a slight update to the upper for v1.5. The King MT keeps the low profile and stable midsole, aggressive outsole, and stability Velcro strap on the upper. The Velcro strap has been moved down a little for a better fit. The outsole keeps the Vibram Megagrip compound and the midsole uses Altra’s proprietary EGO. Protection in the midsole comes in the way of a StoneGuard rock plate.
14.) Adidas Terrex Swift R2
$115 – Weight TBD – 10mm drop – Available Now
I reviewed the Adidas Terrex R last year and had a very positive experience. This shoe is a dedicated hiker and is not really geared towards running. The platform is stiff, stable, and very protective. The big updates are the swap to a Continental rubber outsole and the fact that I can now buy a size 12.5! The rest of the shoe remains largely unchanged. I have this shoe now, and will be publishing a review in the coming months.
15.) Adidas Terrex Two Boa (Dye Free)
$120 – 10.8oz – 6mm drop – Mar 2018
The Terrex Two Boa uses the Boa lacing system and comes in two dye free colorways, black and white. The dye free white is a gorgeous shoe, but I would stain them in a matter of seconds on the trail. Adidas Terrex will be releasing dye free models of a few of their trail runners this year. The Boa lacing and Continental rubber outsole are sure to keep this shoe secure on challenging trail conditions.
16.) Adidas Terrex Two Parley
$140 – Weight TBD – Drop TBD – Aug 2018
Adidas is introducing their Parley line this year, which is the use of fabrics from reclaimed ocean plastic. The Adidas Terrex Two Parley is a knit upper trail shoe in this line. The upper has a seamless socklike fit with a denser knit in the midfoot for stability. This shoe has a Continental rubber outsole with an EVA midsole.
17.) Five Ten Access Knit
$130 – Weight TBD – Drop TBD – Available Now
The Five Ten Access Knit is a new version of the already available Five Ten Access Mesh and Leather. The new knit upper looks to have a more comfortable fit and should make for a great hiker. The Access Knit comes with a stable injection molded midsole and legendary Five Ten Stealth rubber on the outsole.
18.) Under Armour BPF1
Price TBD – Weight TBD – Drop TBD – Fall 2018
The Under Armour BPF1 was described by an Under Armour rep as a cross between their burly Horizon RTT trail shoe and the speed oriented KTV. The BPF1 has a Michelin rubber outsole like the KTV, but a burly upper like the RTT. The upper looks bomb-proof, but I’m interested to see how it breathes, drains, and dries. Time will tell.
19.) Under Armour Horizon 50
Price TBD – Weight TBD – Drop TBD – Fall 2018
The UA 50 is a max cushion shoe with a bootie construction geared towards the ultra running crowd. There is no Michelin rubber outsole, and the upper looks much more breathable than the BPF1. I’m not a huge fan of max cushion shoes, but I know some of my readers are. Shoes with a bootie construction (ie Salomon XA Enduro) have not worked well for me in the past. They tend to give me a heel slip and stretch out over time. It will be interesting to see if UA has a better implementation on this shoe.
20.) Skechers GoRun Maxtrail 5 Ultra
$120 – 10.6oz – 4mm drop – July 2018
The Skechers GoRun Maxtrail 5 Ultra is another well cushioned shoe. The Maxtrail 5 utilizes a seamless sock-like upper that felt great in hand. The upper has a drainage system under the insole that pushes water out through holes in the midsole. The outsole has a nice lug pattern with two rubber compounds to provide grip and durability. I’m really looking forward to getting my feet into a pair of these.
21.) Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Otillo Swimrun
$160 – 10.6oz – 0mm drop – Available Now
Moving away from the max cushioned models, I’m excited for the return of a minimal option to this list! It’s been a long time. The Vivobarefoot Primus Trail series has been around for a while, but this year added the Otillo Swimrun model. The Otillo Swimrun series is an endurance event that started in Sweden. It involves…you guessed it…swimming and running. Otillo has partnered with Vivobarefoot to provide a shoe that can move in and out of the water without missing a beat. These shoes are made to drain and dry quickly, allowing athletes to run in and out of water. The Vivobarefoot Otillo is very similar to the Primus Trail FG, but has an upper optimized for water sports. This is the most minimal shoe on this list, and the perfect shoe for those wanting maximum ground feel.
22.) Astral TR1 Mesh
$125 – 9.8oz – 0mm drop – Available Now
Astral is a brand new company to this list. This company was started in 2002 building life jackets and water shoes. Their new TR1 series of shoes has Astral primed to start growing in the hiking community. Built on a zero drop platform with a wide toe box, a midsole with a top shank, and a wet surface ready outsole, there’s a lot to like about the TR1. The TR1 comes in a Mesh model, as well as the canvas upper TR1 Junction, and burly TR1 Trek.
23.) Oboz M-Trail Low
$120 – 14.3oz – 8mm – Jul 2018
The Oboz M-Trail Low is a shoe that caught my eye as soon as I walked by it at Outdoor Retailer. The look and feel of the M-Trail upper had me thinking it was an approach shoe, but the dual density midsole made it look like a great hiker as well. Oboz is a company based out of Montana that’s fairly well known in the hiking community for their quality footwear. You can also feel good when buying a pair of shoes from Oboz knowing that they plant a tree for every pair of shoes they sell. Oboz uses wind power for their headquarters, carbon-offsets their shoe shipments, and donates all unsellable footwear to Project Sole. This is a model more companies need to follow.
24.) TOPO Runventure 2
$110 – 9.2oz – 0mm drop – Available Now
TOPO is a pretty new company that has been making serious inroads in the running and hiking community. TOPO is known for their anatomical foot-shaped lasts, and their focus on encouraging better running through natural foot and body movement. TOPO released the Terraventure last year, and I’ve read a lot of great things about it. This year, TOPO is releasing the Runventure 2, a 0-drop trail shoe with an EVA midsole and high traction outsole. I will be reviewing both the Runventure 2 and Terraventure in the first half of 2018.
25.) Brooks Cascadia 13
$130 – 11.9oz – 10mm drop – June 2018
The final shoe on my list here is the venerable Brooks Cascadia. Now on it’s 13th edition, the Cascadia has fallen out of favor with many hikers and trail runners, but there are still those that love it. I’ve always found the Cascadia to be too narrow up front, too narrow in the midfoot, and wobbly underfoot. It doesn’t look like much has changed for the Cascadia 13, so that should be welcome news to those of you that love this shoe. The upper looks to be the biggest update over the Cascadia 12. The midsole with a ballistic rock shield and the 4-pivot system outsole look unchanged.
Bonus: Salomon Wings Pro 3
Price TBD – Weight TBD – Drop TBD – 2018???
My final shoe on this list is a bonus item because I can’t find any information on it! So far, this shoe has only popped up on European sites. I have wondered what Salomon will do with the SLAB Wings line, and these pictures of the Wings Pro 3 have given me my answer. The Wings Pro 3 looks just like the SLAB Wings and SLAB Wings 8. Salomon appears to be burying the traditional Wings Pro and replacing it with a non-SLAB version of the Wings 8. Look at the Wings and Wings 8 and tell me if you can spot any differences. I can’t. I still wear my Wings and Wings 8 a lot, so I hope the Wings Pro 3 come to the US.
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